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Old 04-06-2009, 09:58 AM
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Default Cowon iAudio 7 review -- with lots of pictures (no blurry cell phone shots)

Why I chose the Cowon iAudio 7
Well, here is a brief summary.

Years ago I bought my first mp3 player - a Cowon U2 when they first came out. Loved everything about it, but 1GB wasn't large enough as my music collection grew.

Bought a Creative Zen 16GB. After about 10 months with the Zen I broke out the old U2 and fell in love with the Cowon sound again. The difference is that big, so I had to get another Cowon. Just HAD to.

Bought the D2 16GB. I had it for almost 2 weeks and returned it. I will explain why later on in the review.

Bought the iAudio 7 16GB version (FW 1.17) and there is no looking back.





What comes in the box

Player, USB data transfer cable, software, ear buds, manual.

Truth be told, I've never touched the software, cable, or the manuals because I don't need either. I have about a half dozen USB to mini-USB cables laying around. This is the great thing with Cowons - the simple, almost universal USB plugs. I love it. The earbuds are just typical stock buds, with a foam shielding around each. Nothing spectacular.



First impressions
Coming straight from the D2, and even comparing them A/B/A/B the i7 is without doubt the better sounding of the two players. My first impression physically was that the i7 was about the size as I expected from the pictures; short and compact and a lot like my U2. Pictures of the D2 online do not portray how small that player is in real life, the i7 looks the same online and in real life.

Right out of the box I figured out the menu and interfaces in about 5 minutes. It's not exactly rocket science, but knowing Cowon's interface will shave a couple minutes off your learning time. While not the most cleverly laid out menu, it works for me and is NOT overly complicated like some reviews suggest. If they say otherwise, they take you for a big idiot.

I like the small form factor, it's a bit pudgey compared to wafer thin players like the Nano or the Zen, but I prefer the extra "heft". Besides, I'll gladly give up some size for a bigger battery life. Cowon mops the floor with Apple in that regards, more on that later.

It's also nice to have the FM radio on my mp3 player, but chances are I will never use it unless I'm at a ball game.

Screen, controls, buttons
Look, the screen is very small, there's no question about it. It's only about 1.25 inches, so don't bother buying this player if you're going to be watching movies on it. You'll probably go cross-eyed. The screen is sufficiently clear for being so small. Aside from the album art, I've loaded a couple pictures I've taken with my Nikon D300 on it and they look nice, not great.



I didn't buy this player for watching movies, displaying pictures, or staring at album art so I turned the album art off so I just have white text on a simple black background. The text itself is very small, but there is a "fix/patch" on ABI to make the text bolder. I haven't installed it.





The "swing touch" is a breeze to use, and SO MUCH better than the D2 touch screen. The swing touch is a little sensitive right out of the box but you can adjust the sensitivity, mine is at LOW and it works flawlessly. I can cruise through the menu and lists effortlessly now, and much faster than any other player I've owned. You can move your finger up and down on the slider and the menu scrolls accordingly. Or, you can just press and hold one end of the slider and the menu scrolls and scrolls until you release your touch. This makes scrolling through an entire library VERY easy and quick. It really makes Apple's circular scroll look silly, sorry Apple fanboys.

The "touch buttons" are: fwd/rev or ffw/rwnd or scroll up/down, and a play/pause button. There are 3 tactile buttons on top: power, menu, and volume +/-. There is a mic hole on top as well. The power button has a "hold" function so you can lock out the swing touch from accidental moves. This is nice for the gym. On one end is the headphone out port and the other end is the charging port.






Why the i7 is better than the D2 (for me)
Build - I returned the D2 because physically, it wasn't for me. Although it looks swank and fancy with it's new age touch screen it was just too delicate for my needs. I was constantly afraid I would damage the screen by either puncturing it or scratching. I just can't throw the D2 in my pocket with my cell phone - I can with my i7. Plus, the D2 is larger than the i7 which makes it less portable to use in the gym, for example. I would never think about using the D2 at the gym because I would be too afraid of putting it in my pocket and the sweat/moisture ruining the screen, or other damages. The touch screen on the D2 just isn't "all that" like I was expecting. It wasn't as accurate as I was hoping for. I have average size hands and I was extremely annoyed with it. Trying to navigate the D2 while driving is a NIGHTMARE.

I'm also an avid mountain biker, I would never consider bringing the D2 as I hit the trails - it's just too delicate. I can throw my i7 in my pocket, stick it in a pocket on my Camelback, and not worry about it. Hell, if it fell out while riding I still wouldn't worry. I would have a stroke if the D2 fell out onto the trail. I bought a clear hard case for the i7 and think it looks great, and protects nicely.

D2 vs. i7 sound - To my ears the i7 sounds much warmer, fuller, and more robust compared to the D2. Before I bought the D2 I read many reviews that said it has a "cold, analytical" sound and to their credit - they're right. Even with all the BBE and Mach3Bass turned on it never sounded as good as the i7. The i7 volume goes to 40 but I never go above 22-25.

I think the i7 has more "oomph" in the sound, it's more lively and "meaty" for lack of a better word. Although they are both Cowons, they do not sound anything alike. I usually flip between the ROCK and my own Custom EQ settings with BBE and Mach3Bass at about 4 each and it sounds perfect. Flat EQ is boring to me, I like a little thicker low end and warm mids compared to some. All of the pre-set EQ options sound terrible in my car's Bose soundsystem, but the Custom EQ settings sound great. Go figure.

-- I don't have "bass roll off" graph charts or anything like that, I don't wear a pocket protector or live in my parent's basement - but the i7 sounds excellent in every regard. Clear highs, nice weighted bass, sparkling acoustics. Strictly audio sounding, there is nothing I would change about it. There is a very faint hiss on some albums, but nothing to even consider. (these are usually crap 128kbps files, or almost ALL Jefferson Airplane)

D2 vs. i7 battery - D2 claims "up to" 52 hours audio playback, while the i7 chalks up 60 hours. Both of these stats whip the snot out of Cowon's competitors. Apple claims "up to" 24 hours on the Nano [insert hysterical laughing and pointing].

To be honest, I use my i7 for 3-5 hours a day on average with some days over 8 hours and I charge my i7 about once every couple weeks.



File transfer
If you've ever transfered a file onto a USB thumb drive, you can transfer a file to the i7. It's that easy. When you plug it into your PC it is recognized as a removable drive, so just copy and paste the files into the music folder, or pictures/movies into their respective folders.

No silly propreitary software to use, no annoying syncing, none of that. If you like doing circular thumb exercises while being forced to use propreitary software to move your files around, the Cowon i7 is not for you. The notion of having to use a propreitary software just to move MY files onto MY player is insane and insulting. Copy. And. Paste. In your face.

I choose to browse by File Name, though the i7 does support ID3 tag browsing. I also browse by Folders which makes things so easy. I don't use playlists so I cannot atest to that. I have a FOLDER named "workout songs" with a couple hundred songs on it that I play in SHUFFLE mode that works really well. You can also set the boundary of your shuffle from single, folder, or sub folder.

In closing..
The i7 is the perfect player for me. 16GB is plenty of room for me, it's small yet durable, incredible battery life, fast interface, simple file transfer, multiple file formats, and sounds amazing. FLAC sounds awesome one it. Most of my mp3 and WMA are 320 or 192kbps files (with a few ancient 128kpbs) and they sound beautiful.

This is the best sounding player I have heard. This includes listening to my wife's 120GB ipod classic, her 4GB ipod mini, my brother in law's ipod touch, my co-workers Sansa Clip, and my own players. It goes without saying the i7 has far more customizable EQ settings that ipods can even dream of, and to top if off, it just sounds better. The U2 is the second best, but a distant second place. (the U2 sounds a LOT like the Clip to my ears)

If you are considering the D2, think hard about it. For some, the lack of a memory expansion slot is a deal breaker. The i7 is probably up your alley if you're not sure about touch screens or you want a small portable player. I solidly recommend this player.

Last edited by ka-boom; 04-06-2009 at 04:55 PM.
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  #2  
Old 04-06-2009, 09:58 AM
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Compared to U2


Compared to U2

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Old 04-06-2009, 12:30 PM
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Great review and beutiful pictures ka-boom, I feel the same way about mine and then some! Moved your review to MP3 Payer User Reviews and linked back into the i7 forum sticky
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Old 04-06-2009, 03:46 PM
Dreamnine Dreamnine is offline
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Great sound quality maybe- but isn't it just a tad old now? And non-
expandable.
I'd be lost without video, and the D2 isn't as delicate as you make out.
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Old 04-06-2009, 04:23 PM
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The i7 has been out for a while now, yes. However, there are still people who are considering buying one and there aren't really a lot of first hand reviews like this (with pictures). Is there ever such a thing as "too many" reviews? In doing my research before buying the i7 I would have been very happy to find more reviews like this, and less cnet and amazon.com type of reviews with 0 pictures.

Yes, it is NON-expandable. But like I said, for my needs 16GB is plenty.
There are people who think 4GB is plenty for their needs. It varies from person to person.

Again, as I said, for my needs the D2 was too delicate. I wouldn't hesitate to throw my i7 in the same pocket as loose change, keys, and a cell phone. Sure you could do that with a D2 if you have it in an altoids tin, a silly leather case, or something like that but I would never attempt that with a naked player due to that big ol' beautiful screen.
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Old 04-06-2009, 04:38 PM
Dreamnine Dreamnine is offline
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I've no doubt they're good players, and considerably less than they were for 16Gb.
One of the things I really liked about the D2 aside from SQ was it's ruggedness- the same can't be said of my Samsung P3, but it's great for video.
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Old 04-06-2009, 04:40 PM
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THANK YOU. I've been close to purchasing this for awhile now! I just wondered about the awkwardness of the ui.

Also, how is it at the gym, can you change songs and what not without looking?

Does it show all the song information? Like Kbps, bbe lvl, mach3bass on or off etc like the d2?

It's really this + new headphones or the D2, so I want to make a decent decision on it, great review!
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Old 04-06-2009, 04:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreamnine View Post
Great sound quality maybe …
No "maybe" at all like you state, it produces a great sq, the sound signature is proven. The i7 has great sound quality, excellent detail without being fatiguing, bright or analytical. It's very soothing and warm without coloring your music. It might not be for you, but as you stated maybe isn’t a correct statement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreamnine View Post
… isn't it just a tad old now? And non-expandable.
Yes, it's been out for 2 years and it’s non-expandable. Although it’s a flash player that is still a very good option for persons that love great sound quality, don’t care about video and love the form factor/size for protable audio. BTW, there are great deals available from time to time for the 16gb model. I'm hoping that cowon releases another small player with equal to or greater sq to the i7 later this year as the rumor goes …


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreamnine View Post
I'd be lost without video, and the D2 isn't as delicate as you make out.
Obviously the screen is too small although it plays video, it’s clearly not the player for you. As far as delicate, I believe the OP is referring to the screen, I certainly can attest to mine taking a licking and looks like it doesn’t have a scratch. On one occasion my i7 took a 15+ foot flight, landed hard and slid across brick pavers, it’s the same one you see in my current pictures today, it certainly has great build quality
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Old 04-06-2009, 04:48 PM
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I dont have any problem with the UI. It's simple enough for me, it took me about 5 minutes to get used to it. Literally, 5 minutes.

Quote:
Also, how is it at the gym, can you change songs and what not without looking?
It's great at the gym! Because it's so small and solid I can't imagine any moisture creeping in or causing problems. I can put it on the cardio machines easily or keep it in my pocket. If you put the player in "hold" state (by moving the power button over) you can set one of the tactile buttons to increment songs. I don't worry about that, and just let my "workout" folder play in shuffle.

Quote:
Does it show all the song information? Like Kbps, bbe lvl, mach3bass on or off etc like the d2?
No, it does not. The display isn't as in-depth as the D2, but do you really need to know what kbps the song you're listening to is? I mean, really? You can get to the "Jet Effect" menu easily with about 3 presses of the menu button where you can view/adjust all your BBE, Mach3, Pan settings there.

As far as song information, this will all depend on how you have your display set up and if you choose to view by file name or by ID3 tags.

Last edited by ka-boom; 04-06-2009 at 04:54 PM.
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Old 04-06-2009, 10:05 PM
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FWIW, I would have loved to get an i7, so I throughly enjoyed the great review!!!! I still envy the fact that this Cowon has no bass rolloff, so the sq is still a deal maker IMO. As for being old, it's still hard to beat, 2 years after it's release. Like I said before, GREAT REVIEW!!!
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Old 04-07-2009, 05:28 PM
JamieMcMe JamieMcMe is offline
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Curse you ka-boom!

I was certain on getting a Walkman, but then you go and sing the praises of the iAudio 7! You've made me think about my decision again xD

I'm horrible at decision making :P
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Old 04-12-2009, 11:37 AM
kintul kintul is offline
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Default Second the Praise!

Great review, great pictures, and I can solidly second all the praise you heaped on this little wonder.

I've tried several mp3 players, finally bought the i7 (8GB version). I've been using it for a year now, and it is hands down the best!

I don't much use mine for music; I'm an audiobook lover, and this is a great player for audiobooks - can hold up to 200 bookmarks. That's a big deal.

What this little player has taught me is that the feature that means most to me (after sound, bookmarking) is battery life - I've never pushed it to the end, it seems that the little trickle of power it gets when I download a new book keeps it very nearly constantly at full charge. Running down is just not a thing that is in my list of things to think about.

Like you, I've never used the CD that came with it, I love that it can be loaded by just a drag & drop. I have no idea what the included earbuds sound like; I use my own, always have.

I use mine for anywhere from 2-5 hours a day - I listen to books while using the equipment at the gym (I have a lanyard attached & wear it around my neck).

I still am always on the lookout for other players, so far nothing has come along to even tempt me to leave my i7!!
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Old 08-01-2009, 11:13 AM
Chisagi Chisagi is offline
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Your review convinced me to finally replace my Creative Zen with WSOD, that disconnects from my computer at will.
I'm a little sceptic about the touch controls but when I was doing research, it was the only player that showed up in my search that has everything else that I'm looking for so I'm willing to compromise that. As long as it's not all touch screen I'll suck it up. Thank you!
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Old 08-01-2009, 03:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chisagi View Post
Your review convinced me to finally replace my Creative Zen with WSOD, that disconnects from my computer at will.
I'm a little sceptic about the touch controls but when I was doing research, it was the only player that showed up in my search that has everything else that I'm looking for so I'm willing to compromise that. As long as it's not all touch screen I'll suck it up. Thank you!
They're certainly not the best controls, but I've been living with them for 2 yrs and I'm still very happy with the i7.
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Old 08-03-2009, 10:03 AM
JK98 JK98 is offline
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A few times I was almost tempted to buy an i7, however the very small screen and lack of a card slot are what prevented me from buying it. I don't want to watch videos on the player, I just want to easily be able to easily read what is on the screen. I keep hoping that Cowon will release something between the D2 and i7, ie with a 1.8" or 2" screen, a card slot, and tactile controls, and with a 50+ hour battery life. Cowon doesn't seem to want to do so.
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Old 08-04-2009, 01:59 AM
dreamerman dreamerman is offline
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Talking

Mate, I am all smiles. I just bought the 16GB one for A$189 shipping included. I almost bought a Iriver E100 8GB for A$149 & plan to expand it by another 8GB to make 16GB. I chanced upon several reviews on Cowon iAudio 7 & I am totally sold!! I don't care for video or screen size as I only want to use it for my beloved audio books & perhaps occasional violin sonatas. One thing I miss is built-in FM transmitter. ATM, I am still using an old Olin LM100 1GB with FM transmitter & works well in my car. I crawl through traffic 2.5 hours each day. Thanks for your great review. I am currently listening to Eric Van Lustbader's latest on Jason Bourne, the Bourne Deception. Awesome!
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Old 08-04-2009, 02:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dreamerman View Post
I am currently listening to Eric Van Lustbader's latest on Jason Bourne, the Bourne Deception. Awesome!
I've read them, he does a pretty good job. They're not exactly how Ludlum would write Bourne, but still very entertaining reads.(yeah, I read them, not listen)
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Old 08-04-2009, 02:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin the Martian View Post
I've read them, he does a pretty good job. They're not exactly how Ludlum would write Bourne, but still very entertaining reads.(yeah, I read them, not listen)
I absolutely agree with you, I still prefer old man Ludlum's style. Although the character is the same (Jason) but plot/style is quite different. I struggle for reading time but now hooked on audio books. The book reader makes a whole lot difference. One particular reader blew my mind - The Count of Monte Cristo read by Fred Williams is simple the best. This reader can switch languages & different accents seamlessly. The reader for Lee Child's Jack Reecher series is also very good.
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Old 08-15-2009, 06:08 AM
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Hey I heard that you can set the volume buttons to act as next/previous tracks, even when the player is on hold. Is that right? Cause if it is, I'm getting one http://www.amazon.de/Cowon-iAudio-Tr...0331580&sr=8-1

Last edited by Pierre; 08-15-2009 at 06:20 AM.
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Old 08-24-2009, 08:13 PM
Skullkrusher Skullkrusher is offline
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Got my iAudio 7 back in January. Worked fine for three months until it bricked itself. Along the last month, the headphone jack became loose (Using my Sennheiser HD555s). Just sent it back a little while ago, got it back today, and already dealing with some glitches. Out of NO WHERE, one of my songs produced a glitchy, screechy noise, and after I paused it, the play button acted as a backwards button. Turned it off and on, it reset itself, asked what language to put it in, and the library was gone. Turned it off and on again, and it's back to normal. WTF?

The headphones jack issue still annoys me, the right channel cuts out a lot.
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